Daybreak just released a massive update to the renderer, which now supports DX11. As such, many parts of this guide such as much of the information under the ---The Graphics Menu--- header, is likely to be inaccurate. There's still some useful information contained herein, but take it with a grain of salt and don't expect anything to be completely accurate anymore.
The most useful and still-up-to-date information here is probably under ---Supersampling---, so don't be afraid to just skip to that and ignore the rest.
---Shitty, retarded .ini tweak guides---
In the past, certain settings could only be changed by editing UserOptions.ini, but the interface has since been updated to allow for changing all the important settings (sans RenderQuality and the newly-implemented framerate smoothing) in-game. If you've found a guide claiming to double your framerate and graphic quality by setting everything to "5", they don't know what they're writing about.
Remember, SOE (now Daybreak) put thousands of combined man-hours into PU01 - if fixing performance were as simple as changing a few .ini settings, you can bet your tits it's the first thing they'd have tried.
For the few tweaks that do require .ini modification, the easiest way to get to the relevant file is to open the launcher, click the engineer icon and find the "open game directory" option. Find UserOptions.ini and open it in a text editor such as Notepad++.
Unless otherwise noted, every tweak in this guide should be set through the in-game graphics menu.
First off, while in-game, press Alt+F to display the FPS counter; if next to it reads [CPU], that means your CPU is the bottleneck for FPS; likewise, if it reads [GPU] your GPU is the bottleneck. If there is no [CPU]/[GPU] next to your FPS counter, framerate smoothing is probably capping it out at 60, or the game client hasn't rendered enough frames to decide where the bottleneck is yet.
---The Graphics Menu---
- Resolution, Brightness, VSync:
These should be self-explanatory if you've played any PC game. Figure it out.
- Display Mode:
Full Screen usually runs the best, Windowed mode runs in a window, Fullscreen Windowed runs in a window set to the same dimensions as your monitor. It's usually best to leave this on Full Screen for performance, but alt+tabbing will be slower and will occasionally cause a client crash as a result. Fullscreen Windowed will generally run slightly slower, but alt+tabbing should be instant and shouldn't crash.
Note that your brightness setting only works in Fullscreen mode: on windowd and fullscreen windowed, you're always stuck at the darkest brightness setting.
- Render Quality:
This is a multiplier for the resolution your game is rendered at. At 100% (1.0), the game is rendered at a ratio of 1:1 for your resolution, no up or downscaling. At 50% (0.5), the vertical and horizontal resolution the picture is rendered at is multiplied by 0.5 independently (1920*1080 -> 960*540), or effectively 1/4th resolution, then upscaled. At 0.75 the game is rendered at 1/2 resolution and upscaled (1920*1080 -> 1440*810). For settings above 1.0, see ---Supersampling--- below. This setting has a major impact on FPS, but reducing it also dramatically reduces graphical quality.
- Vertical Field of View (vFOV):
This isn't the same as hFOV that most other games use (unless your monitor is perfectly square), but obviously affects hFOV too. Low settings can cause motion sickness in some users.
At an aspect ratio of 4:3, 74 vFOV equates to 90 hFOV.
At 16:10, 74 vFOV = 100 hFOV; 64 vFOV = 90 hFOV.
At 16:9, 74 vFOV = 104 hFOV; 59 vFOV = 90 hFOV.
A typical setting for most PC games is ~90 hFOV, but the more competitive types tend to max their setting out at 74 vFOV.
Here's a calculator to convert between vFOV and hFOV for your screen resolution:
- GPU Particle Quality (PhysX):
As of PU01, SOE has disabled GPU physics because it conflicted with some of their optimizations. At the time it was claimed that they were waiting on help from nVidia to fix it, however that was roughly five years ago, so it's unlikely this option will ever work again.
- Render Distance:
This adds a wall of fog beyond a certain distance, in meters, and stops rendering anything beyond that fog. Low settings should be avoided by pilots, and can completely block visibility of the ground while drop podding. A setting around 2500 or so is recommended, and should provide a slight performance increase without much of a graphical impact. Note that this doesn't affect infantry or vehicle render distance (300 and 700m, which automatically lowers in very high-pop areas) unless set extremely low, only static terrain and props.
Enables FPS smoothing, which essentially dynamically caps framerate to prevent large FPS swings and make lower FPS feel more playable. This can be tweaked through .ini editing, see ---Framerate Smoothing--- below.
- Overall Quality:
Presets for subsequent settings. Leave this alone if you're going to fiddle with the other settings manually.
- Graphics Quality:
This setting has a fairly dramatic effect, both on the game image and GPU utilization. High includes all the bells and whistles, bloom, atmospheric fog, smoke and so on. Medium disables certain superfluous effects, but also breaks Thermal/IRNV optics. Low disables even more superfluous effects, breaks Thermal/IRNV slightly less than medium, significantly reduces the impact of smoke grenades and variably breaks cloaked infiltrators (occasionally makes them very visible, other times completely stops their model from being rendered at all, which one of these it does varies wildly from patch to patch). This seems to be where SOE dumps all their graphical settings that they can't be bothered making separate options for.
- Texture Quality:
Controls the resolution of textures on almost everything. This setting has almost no effect on FPS. Only set below ultra if your GPU doesn't have very much vRAM (keeping in mind that this game was developed in 2012, when <1GB of vRAM was still typical). Indeed, on some systems, using a setting lower than Ultra will actually decrease FPS.
- Lighting Quality:
Subtly changes some lighting effects. While GPU-limited, has very little effect on FPS, maybe 3-5% between low and high. There's also almost no graphical change between low and medium, but medium will perform slightly worse than low. This setting should probably be left on high.
- Shadow Quality:
This setting controls how shadows are rendered, and will significantly impact FPS on CPU-limited systems - the FPS hit between high and off can be anywhere between 20 to 50%. Also taxes the GPU slightly, but not that much. Off doesn't render shadows at all and looks awful, but can dramatically improve FPS. Low renders very simple shadows and only at close range. Medium renders better shadows out to slightly longer range. High renders medium-style shadows out to even further range.
- Fog Shadows:
Renders shadows through fog, which increases graphic quality very slightly in exchange for a noticeable FPS hit. Turn this off if you want a few extra frames in exchange for a very minor quality hit.
- Effects Quality:
Allegedly changes the quality of explosions, in practice really doesn't have any measurable effect on graphics or FPS whatsoever. Just set it to whatever, it doesn't matter.
- Terrain Quality:
Like "Effects Quality", this setting doesn't actually do anything either. Just set it to whatever, it doesn't matter.
- Flora Quality:
This setting controls flora quality (grass, bushes, tree leaves and so on), and has a slight effect on CPU-limited systems, but nowhere near as much as shadows. Settings between high, medium and low only seem to change flora resolution slightly, and not much else. Off completely disables most flora. For performance, turn this setting to low or off.
- Model Quality:
This setting controls LoD for models: lower poly-count models will be used as distance from the player increases on lower settings, which will moderately increase performance on GPU-bound systems for very little graphical impact.
This setting controls LoD for particles. Reducing this setting will provide a slight-to-moderate FPS increase on GPU-bound systems, and will generally render fewer particles over longer distances.
- Motion Blur:
Blurs the screen slightly any time the camera is being turned, in exchange for a small FPS hit. Many players find this effect annoying.
- Ambient Occlusion:
Subtly improves graphical quality for a moderate FPS hit on GPU-bound systems.
Turning this off reduces bloom - you know, the blinding effect from bright things - down to a less blinding level. This setting probably doesn't do much for performance, but turning it off does improve visibility under some circumstances.
If configured to, the renderer can be set to render the game at a higher resolution, then downscale it to fit your monitor. This is known as supersampling, the most genuine form of anti-aliasing, and can greatly improve the visual quality of the game. Enabling supersampling is typically very taxing on your GPU, but because of some arcane magic that the devs themselves don't even understand (see https://imgur.com/a/6fhTAlD), doing so has been known to actually improve your FPS by tricking the renderer into better utilizing your GPU for some reason.
A setting of 1.0 is default, and renders the game at a 1:1 ratio relative to your screen resolution. To enable supersampling, open your UserOptions.ini and find RenderQuality under [Display]. The most commonly recommended setting is 2x SS, or:
This is the square root of 2, and it works by multiplying the vertical and horizontal resolution of the render by the value set. For example, 1920*1080 = 2073600; With 2x SS set, that's (1920*1.414213)*(1080*1.414213) ~= 2715*1527 ~= 4147203, which is roughly 2x 2073600.
Other common "presets" include 1.732051 for 3x SS, 2.0 for 4x, 3.0 for 9x SS etc.
If you're playing specifically to take screenshots, don't be afraid to crank this setting up really high, as this will make the screenshots look great.
It's worth a shot to try playing with this setting, and you can revert it to 1.0 or lower without a client restart at any time.
Here's one of the few settings partially only modifiable through the .ini. By default, framerate smoothing attempts to keep your FPS around a consistent value by capping the maximum value at 60, and smoothing it out if it's between 20 and 59. SOE recommends leaving this turned on in order to prevent overuse of hardware (e.g. FPS at 500 and CPUs/GPUs on fire in menus), and to lessen the impact of frames that take unusually long to render for whatever reason.
In UserOptions.ini, under [Rendering], add the lines:
Set SmoothingMaxFramerate to the refresh rate of your monitor; if it's an LCD and you're unsure, this is almost always the default of 60. If you're still a dinosaur with a CRT or have a 120Hz monitor, this can be different.
SmoothingMinFramerate is the value at which smoothing automatically disables itself. Either leave this at default, or change it to whatever you think is a good value.
For more information, see: https://forums.station.sony.com/ps2/index.php?threads/frame-rate-smoothing.155313/
---I'm CPU-limited, what do?---
If you've got at least a mid-range PC, you're probably CPU limited like everyone else.
- Try normal Fullscreen mode; if already on Fullscreen mode, try False Fullscreen. Use whichever performs better on your system.
- Turn off Shadows and Fog Shadows
- Turn Flora to low or off
- Leave everything else on high/ultra
Turning off shadows looks terrible, but it's the only setting that will significantly improve your FPS. Flora will help too, but nowhere near as much.
---I'm GPU-limited, what do?---
This usually means that your framerate is already fine, or you're running a toaster.
You can choose to:
- Turn off Shadows
- Turn down Model Quality, Particles, and turn off Motion Blur and AO.
- Turn down Render Quality
- Try a lower render quality
- Try GustavoM's potatomode settings, found in the old copypasta - but don't get your hopes up
- Purchase or assemble a more powerful computer
---Toaster Mode: Sound Settings---
Some users report squeezing out a couple more FPS on very low-end machines by changing their sound settings. In UserOptions.ini, under [Sound], change the following settings (add a new line if they're not already there):
MaxVoices=20 (Last resort setting, this will cause many fewer sounds to play concurrently. Default is 96. Optionally set it higher or leave this alone.)
SampleRate=1000 (Also a last resort setting. PS2 internal default is 192k, and Windows default is 44.1k, so this can alternatively be set to 41000 to very slightly reduce CPU load with less distortion)
UseFloat32Output=1 (This will reduce CPU usage and increase sound quality slightly. According to SOE, this causes distortion on a minority of shitty sound drivers so it's turned off by default.)
For posterity, the old, outdated optimization pastebin can be found at the following: http://pastebin.com/FrkKLsr8
Last updated: Sep. 7, 2014 -- half-assedly updated on 2019-04-25 because ded gam